The Holy Name in Sacred Scripture

The Splendour of the Name of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian message: It is the Name which urges the preacher to announce and the hearer to accept the Word of God. In this conviction Bernardine was consciously following the example of St. Paul whose only concern was to preach Christ and Him crucified (cf.1 Cor.2.2). This was his task and his achievement and Bernardine desired to imitate him as closely as possible.  Paul was that ‘vas electionis’ singled out to bring the Name of Jesus to the nations (cf. Acts 9, 15) because, as Bernardine explains, the Name of Jesus is that light of day referred to by Paul (cf. Rom 13, 12-13) in which Christians must walk.

Indeed it may be believed that when St. Paul was transported to third heaven and heard there ‘hidden words,’ the message he received was that the Name of Jesus, which is above all names, must be adored by all creation. In his vision says Bernardine, he saw the Father had set Jesus ‘at his right hand in the heavenly places, above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named in this world but also in that which is to come. And He hath subjected all things under His feet’ (Eph.1,20-22). Therefore, when Paul returned to earth he wrote those solemn words, ‘in spiritu Dei praecipiens’: ‘In the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth and under the earth’ (Phil.2.10).

Just as in the case of Paul (cf.1 Cor.2.2), the heart of Bernardine’s message was Jesus and His cross. However some narrow-minded objectors might misrepresent his use of the coloured tablets, Bernardine insisted that in preaching the Name he was proclaiming Jesus as the glorious Saviour of the world.  The Name means Saviour or Salvation and therefore embraces within its meaning all God’s wonderful works on behalf of men from the first creation to the glorification of the last of the elect: the Name is an abbreviation of ‘that incomprehensible mystery of salvation’ revealed in the Incarnate person of the God-man. Jesus is the ‘verbum abbreviatum’ (cf. Rom 9, 28) which the Lord made on the earth.  It is the compendium of salvation.

What stands out, however, among the various mysteries epitomised by the Name is the mystery of ‘Gesu Salvadore e Glorificatore’.  If the name ‘Christ’ signifies grace, ‘Jesus’ means salvation which includes eternal glory as its final term.  To invoke the Name of Jesus is to aspire from the depths of the heart to the consummation of all creation in glory.

It was Bernardine’s conviction that Jesus was the divine Name of the Word uttered from eternity by the Father in so far as the Son was mysteriously predestined as ‘Son of God in power’ in the fullness of time (cf. Rom 1, 4)

At the head of that book of life spoken of by the prophet (Dan.12,2 cf. Exod.32,31-32), which contains the names of the elect, stands the name of Jesus: for He is the ‘caput omnium salvandorum’ (cf Ps.39,8).

The whole of Scripture is founded on His Name while Jesus himself is prefigured clearly by certain personages of the Old Testament who bore His Name (cf Jos.18,8-9;Zach.3,1; Eccles.50,9). Such men were saviours after a fashion but in contrast to Jesus they could not bring about true salvation, viz., liberation from sin and from the enemy of man, the building of a spiritual temple of grace and truth and the gift of abiding wisdom through the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

These saving types who bore the name were as powerless for effecting salvation as was the staff of Eliseus to raise the dead child to life in the absence of the prophet. (cf.4Kgs.4,29-35)

Such prefigurations of the Saviour served only to stimulate the desire for and hope in the Messiah. In the fullness of time, the eternal Name of the Saviour was revealed to Mary and Joseph (Lk.1,31;Mt.1,20-21). In naming the child at His circumcision, they proclaimed to the world that the Saviour was born. The Apostles, in their turn, took up this proclamation and preached Jesus Christ (Acts 5,42) beginning in Judea and reaching gradually to the world (i.e. of Greece and Rome). In that way they fulfilled the mystery of the royal title inscribed on the cross by Pilate.  The faith owed its miraculous growth in the early Church to the fact that the Apostles, and especially Paul, preached Jesus and the saving power of His Name.

The Apostles thus ensured that the Church, ‘constructed in the Name of Jesus,’ would have as its only foundation Jesus Christ himself.  The Spouse of Christ, supported by his faithful witness, continues to say by means of her preachers:

‘’Thou hast taught me, O God, from my youth, and till now I will declare thy wonderful works’’ (Ps. 70,17 ) and also: ‘’Sing ye to the Lord and bless his Name: shew forth his salvation from day to day’’ (Ps. 95,2) — his salvation, that means, ‘’Jesus, his Saviour”. Recognising that that the Church is founded on Jesus whose Name is above all names (Phil.  2.9 ), the only Name by which men are to be saved (Acts. 3,12; cf. Mt. 1,21 ), the Second Council of Lyons (1274) decreed special reverence and veneration for the most Holy Name of Jesus as it occurred in the liturgy.